The trial of Nigerian terrorism suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, also known as the "underwear bomber," began Tuesday in Detroit, Mich., with federal prosecutors telling jurors that the defendant attempted to blow up a plane carrying nearly 300 passengers because he "wanted to be a martyr."
Abdulmutallab is accused of attempting to bomb a Northwest Airlines plane on Dec. 25, 2009, with explosives hidden in his underwear. He managed to smuggle a homemade bomb on board a Detroit-bound Flight 253 from the Netherlands. He faces eight terrorism-related charges including, attempted murder and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
A federal prosecutor speaking in front of jurors during opening statements Tuesday said that Abdulmutallab's sole reason for boarding that plane, which carried almost 300 passengers and crew members, was to blow it up, killing everyone on board, reported The Detroit News.
"And he thought by doing that he would end up somewhere else," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel reportedly said. "He thought he would end up in heaven because he would be a martyr."
Tukel emphasized that the flight was carrying children, military personnel and other passengers, many coming to the U.S. for the holiday.
Abdulmutallab, 24, who has also been dubbed the "Christmas Day bomber," was 23 years old at the time of the alleged attempted attack. After he failed to detonate the bomb properly, the material caught fire instead of exploding, causing the man to be badly burned.
Abdulmutallab was restrained and extinguished by a Dutch passenger, Jasper Schringa, with the help from other passengers, while the pilot managed to safely land the plane.
After landing at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Abdulmutallab was arrested and taken to a hospital to be treated for his burns.
President Barack Obama called the U.S. officials' failure to prevent the bombing attempt "totally unacceptable."
On Dec. 28, 2009, al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing.
The prosecutor reportedly described Abdulmutallab's life Tuesday as that of a privileged student from an affluent family. Tukel said that the young man quit his graduate school in Dubai to join al Qaida in Yemen.
"He wanted jihad, and he sought it out and he found it," Tukel told jurors, according to The Detroit News.
The prosecutor also described how the defendant was preparing himself to die before detonating the bomb – how he prayed and fixed his looks, as if indeed to look well in heaven.
Abdulmutallab's legal adviser, Anthony Chambers, chose not to make an opening statement at the time. He reportedly requested to reserve the right to make a statement later.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds asisgned to the case is still considering a separate defense request to not let the jurors view a photo of Abdulmutallab's burnt genital area. Chambers reportedly said the photo has "no value whatsoever."
The judge will let the jurors see a martyrdom video recorded by the defendant.
Abdulmutallab’s only defense is reportedly that he went to the bathroom on the plane and came back to see a man looking like him, with his crotch on fire.
On Sep. 14, the man's ability to behave properly in court was put into question after he yelled "Osama's alive" during a pre-trial hearing. Abdulmuttallab also refused to stand up when the court was called to attention.